Put the Word to work by writing down Scripture.Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life
I am teaching a 5-week class on prayer at my congregation, and as I do so I am sharing a version of my handouts here on my blog. In our first week together, we looked at prayer through the lens of relationship. You can find the blog post based on that handout here: What Is Prayer, and How Can I Grow in My Life of Prayer? I also introduced the Divine Office in our first week together, which I have introduced on my blog here: What Is the Divine Office? In our second week, we looked at the importance of solitude and silence in our lives of prayer: Silence, Solitude, and Prayer. In our third week, we looked at praying with Scripture using a form of lectio divina: How to Pray with Scripture. In our fourth week, we looked at how prayer leads us on a journey from the head to the heart: Prayer and the Journey from the Head to the Heart.
In our fifth week, we turned to praying for others, and looked at a way to do this that I have found invaluable. Here is a version of the handout that I shared.
I want to share with you a wonderful way of “putting the Word to work” that I learned from Paul E. Miller’s “A Praying Life” seminar. My wife and I attended this seminar in 2017 and I have been using this particular way of praying ever since. It is a simple but powerful way of praying for others using Scripture. Simply put, his recommendation is to create prayer cards rather than a prayer list, and then use these cards to incorporate Scripture into our intercessory prayers. Here is what he says about this approach:
“Prayer cards act as individual snapshots that offer a practical way to remember what you are asking of God and what Scriptures you are applying to particular people, circumstances, or concerns. Prayer does not exist in a vacuum; it weaves throughout the nitty-gritty of life. From the prayer cards, stories will begin to emerge. Each prayer story will begin to shape how you observe life and how the Holy Spirit leads you toward loving, repenting, believing, obeying, and living. It is not a bad idea to simply ask the Spirit to train your spiritual eye and help you see his hand in your stories.”
Miller goes on to point out prayer cards offer several advantages over a list: “A list is often a series of scattered prayer requests, while a prayer card focuses on one person or area of your life. It allows you to look at the person or situation from multiple perspectives. Over time, it helps you reflect on what God does in response to your prayers. You begin to see patterns, and slowly a story unfolds that you find yourself drawn into. A list tends to be more mechanical. We can get overwhelmed with the number of things to pray for. Because items on a list are so disconnected, it is hard to maintain the discipline to pray. When I pray, I have only one card in front of me at a time, which helps me concentrate on that person or need.”
Miller outlines a way of creating these cards:
- Label the card (a three-by-five card works well) with the person’s name. Take a moment to see that person in your mind’s eye and think about the various areas in that person’s life. Sometimes I go for a month or two with just a person’s name on the card as I think about how to pray for him or her.
- Jot down key words or phrases that capture what you are concerned about or what you want to ask for in that person’s life. Don’t just think about the person’s immediate need (such as that a surgery would go well), but think about the big picture of that person’s influence, character, calling, heart, faith, and so on. Remember, you have the privilege of praying big prayers of hope and specific situational prayers in their life. The order is not important. Be specific about what you want to see in their lives. I like to write down the month/year (8/16 means August 2016) so I know when I started praying about a specific item. I seldom write down answers, because I know the prayers so well, I know what God does. Some helpful questions to ask yourself might be:
- What are they facing?
- What is it like to be them?
- How do I feel about them in general and in this particular situation?
- What would I like to see the Spirit do in their heart and character?
- Now put the Word to work by asking what particular Scripture you want to see working in that person’s life.
- Slip into prayer for the person while jotting down a few words or short phrases that will help you remember what you are asking. Be concise: Keep it to one or two lines.
Here is an outline of possible prayer cards suggested by Miller:
- Family prayer cards (one for each person)
- People in suffering cards
- Friends prayer card
- Non-Christian prayer card
- Church leadership prayer card
- Small group prayer card
- World issues prayer card
- Work prayer card & Co-workers prayer card
- Repentance prayer cards (Things I need to repent of)
- Hope or big-dream prayer card
- Thanking God prayer card (Blessings you notice that you do not want to forget)
You can learn more about this way of praying here:
Prayer Card Course
You can also find a 48-page document with Scripture for prayer cards here:
Scripture for Prayer Cards
Again, this is a wonderful way of praying for others with Scripture that has been a real blessing to me, and I hope it will be for you, too.